December 7 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Firefighters are to strike for four hours next week in a row over pensions, the Fire Brigades Union said.
Almost 80pc voted in favour of industrial action in a ballot that ended earlier this month.
Union officials had left the strike to the last possible moment to allow for the possibility of a negotiated settlement.
The strike will take place next Wednesday, September 25.
Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This initial strike is a warning shot to government. Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions. Governments in Westminster and Cardiff have simply refused to see sense on these issues.
“It is ludicrous to expect firefighters to fight fires and rescue families in their late 50s: the lives of the general public and firefighters themselves will be endangered. None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety.”
The walkout will take place for four hours, between noon and 4pm.
On Saturday, the FBU said it expected a strike to be “unavoidable” following a meeting of its executive council.
The union said government figures showed that thousands of firefighters could face the sack without access to a proper pension simply because they are getting older.
A recent government review found that more than half of current firefighters between the ages of 50 and 54 are no longer able to meet fire and rescue service fitness standards for fighting fires, while two thirds of those beyond the age of 55 fail to meet the standards.
Although the government has previously claimed that older firefighters could be moved to less physically demanding roles, the FBU said its research found only a handful of “redeployment” opportunities in fire and rescue services, meaning mass sackings would be inevitable.
Firefighters already pay some of the highest pension contributions in the UK public or private sector and have seen increases for two consecutive years, the union said.
The majority of firefighters already pay almost 13pc of their salary in contributions with further increases due next year. This will mean some firefighters now face an increase six years in a row.
The FBU also argue that financial projections from the Government are flawed as they are based on a prediction of a 1pc decline in pension sign-up when their own information suggests that more than 25pc of full-time firefighters recruited last year chose not to join.
Earlier this month, fire chiefs and council leaders in Norfolk said they were stepping up contingency plans if firefighters went on strike.
Dan Roper, the county council’s cabinet member for public protection, said on September 2: “This is a national dispute and is no reflection at all on the management of the service in Norfolk or on the current or previous administration.
“Although it is acknowledged this is a legally constituted dispute, I very much regret and would struggle to support any action that causes any extra unnecessary risk to members of the public.”
“Work is well advanced to look at various contingency scenarios for if that action takes place, to ensure the residents of Norfolk are safe.”
Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said: “The decision by the FBU to take strike action is entirely unnecessary and avoidable.
“After two years of discussions, and with improved terms, the pension on offer to firefighters is one of the most generous public service pensions available.
“A firefighter who earns £29,000, and retires after a full career aged 60, will get a £19,000 a year pension, rising to £26,000 with the state pension. To get the same pension from a private scheme firefighters would have to contribute twice as much.
“All 46 fire and rescue authorities in England have robust contingency plans in place.”